Ma Dang Gook Soo Beyond the Soy Bean Noodles
Back in June, Squid Ink called the Cold Soy Bean Noodles at Ma Dang Gook Soo (869 Western, in Koreatown) one of the Top 10 Asian Noodle Bowls under $7 in Los Angeles, and now that we’re knee deep in summer “The Guru” reaffirmed his love of the same dish in a response to a reader question. The nutty, thick broth (if you can even call the sludge a broth) is unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before… and completely worth the trip. The flavor is pretty subtle (borderline bland) and takes a while to completely comprehend. But eat a whole bowl of the stuff? I don’t know. Even on the hottest day, I couldn’t imagine finishing the enormous circular troth you get for $8.25 (I guess they raised the price, because it’s not under $7 anymore.)
It’s far better to grab a few friends, and order a bunch of dishes…(isn’t it always?)
As long as you’re there, here’s some other stuff worth ordering:
Kal gook soo, or knife cut noodles, is their namesake dish and unlike Myung Dong Kyoja (another popular place for kal gook soo, on Wilshire), where there’s only one stock, Ma Dang Gook Soo gives you 4 options- chicken, clams, anchovy or kimchee. The noodles are wider than the ones at MDK, and the broth is a bit more flavorful (especially if you don’t go chicken) but I prefer the scallions at MDK over the zucchini and I did kind of miss the ground beef and dumplings. Even so, at $7.85 you can’t go wrong, and the noodles are great.
Listed on the menu as seasoned spicy rice cake ($5.95), their version of ddukboki is not considered one of the best in Koreatown… but I’ve enjoyed it both times I’ve gotten it. Admittedly I’m no connoisseur, so perhaps it’s a version for newbies? Either way, if the idea of chewy rice cake in a sweet red sauce with a ton of vegetables sounds appealing to you… you should be pretty satisfied. And for $6 it’s one of the cheaper things on the menu.
English translations are always welcome at a place like this, and the menu does a good job for those of us who don’t read Korean. But I was surprised to see their dolsot bibimbap listed as “Mountain Vegetables w/ Rice, Meat” on the menu. I feel like at this point bibimbap is something most people know… especially those people who are going to end up at Ma Dang Gook Soo. Even so, their version of the hot stone bi bim bap is great- especially if you like vegetables and a perfectly cooked (i.e. runny) egg. Not a lot of meat for your $8.25, but it was still a crowd-pleaser… just make sure to wait a few minutes before mixing it up, to get maximum rice crispiness on the bottom of the bowl.
In the end, if I was alone and in the mood for a bowl of kal gook soo, I’d probably hit up Myung Dong Kyoja. But if I did end up alone at Ma Dang Gook Soo, and was forced to choose one dish, I think I’d go for the rice cake w/ dumpling soup. The cloudy broth is reminiscent of egg drop soup- but good (I’ve never liked egg drop soup, but I liked this) and the dumplings were an awesome bonus. The discs of rice cake were chewy and satisfying, and all mixed together it was (for me) the most comforting bowl of soup MDGS offers (and in the end, isn’t that what Korean noodle bowls are all about?)
In other words… go for the soy bean noodles. But don’t go alone. This spot is best enjoyed as a group.
Ma Dang Gook Soo, 869 S. Western Ave., Koreatown, (213) 487-6008